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Scheurebe Does Double Duty in Middle Eastern Pairing

by Jeff Harding with photos by Shannon Sturgis
Vol. 31
January, 2013   

Chef Mike Solomonov makes simple, soulful food with no apologies at Zahav in Philadelphia. Israeli comfort dishes like whole-roasted lamb shoulder and sable salad pack wallops of flavor. In Solomonov’s hands, even the basics like hummus are worth closer (and slower) inspection to savor every bite.

Much of the menu at Zahav is comprised of smaller plates, so most tables order at least four to six dishes at a meal. This can present a wine-pairing dilemma, but Sommelier Brian Kane’s wine list is composed of versatile wines. He seeks out medium-acid and medium-body wines like Scheurebe, Gruner Veltliner, and Airén, which are bright and refreshing but can stand up to heartier dishes like duck and lamb. Most of the proteins are cooked over charcoal, so charred barbecue flavors linger in the food, which he finds works beautifully with the subtle residual sugar in wines like Verdejo and Austrian Riesling. In Kane’s hands, the challenge of multiple food and wine pairings becomes an eye-opening adventure in the versatility of a well-chosen wine list.

  • Sommelier Brian Kane
  • Brian Kane believes that wine and food from the same place can make a glorious match. So in keeping with the Middle Eastern menu at Zahav, Kane manages one of the largest selections of Middle Eastern wines in Pennsylvania. If he can get a wine from Israel or Lebanon, he’ll feature it. If not, he loves to round out the list with more esoteric wines and obscure varietals.
Scheurebe, Louis Konstantin Guntrum, Nierstein, Germany, 2010
Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Whipped Feta Cheese, Brussels Sprout Babaganoush, and Sumac
Pairing Note
Solomonov slow-cooks Brussels sprouts in olive oil to tenderize them before roasting, and then purées them with tehina to make a smooth, earthy babaganoush. The purée gets zip from sumac, a lemony flower used for acidity in pre-Roman times, along with extra tang from feta cheese that the kitchen whips to the consistency of a loose whipped cream.

Kane pairs this rustic dish with a German Scheurebe for its generous fruity acidity, which lends itself to pairing with a wide range of ingredients. He further explains: “The charred aspect of the sprouts and the sour notes of the sumac and feta cheese complement the bright nectarine flavors of the Guntrum Scheurebe, and the grape’s acidity cuts through the richer tehina flavors, which are very nutty and creamy.”

Scheurebe, Louis Konstantin Guntrum, Nierstein, Germany, 2010
House-smoked Sable Salad, Challah, and Fried Egg
Pairing Note
To showcase the versatility and approachable nature of the Scheurebe, Kane paired it again, this time with a tangle of smoked sable (tossed in poppy seeds, dried mustard seeds, dried onion, lemon, and chives) casually placed on a crusty Challah, which hides a golden, oozing fried egg yolk. It’s the Lower East Side on a plate! Kane’s choice of Scheurebe elevates the dish beyond comfort food, as it “complements the smoky notes of the fish, while adding acid to cut through the rich Challah bread and runny yolk.” The brightness in the wine also highlighted the lemon and fruit notes in the fish.

Pairing a single wine with multiple small plates can be a challenge, but Kane proves that one wine can highlight different notes in two great dishes.

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